Government endorses HSE plan for County Hospital – Naughten

Local TD Denis Naughten was informed on Thursday last in the Dáil that the Government has endorsed the HSE plan to transfer inpatient surgery from Roscommon County Hospital to Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, which will form phase one of the downgrading process at the hospital.  ‘Sadly, the Minister for Health decided to walk out on the debate rather than address the serious questions which were raised on the floor of the Dáil,’ said Denis Naughten.  Responding in the Dáil on behalf of the Minister for Health, and flanked by Minister Finneran, Minister of state at the Department of Health, Mary Wallace, TD, said: ‘The plan is to combine the staffing and workload of the existing small service units in Roscommon County Hospital and Portiuncula Hospital into joint departments of surgery and anaesthesia serving both hospitals. This will involve joint consultant surgical and anaesthetic posts.  ‘While the more complex surgical cases will be treated in Portiuncula, this represents only about three cases per week on average. Roscommon Hospital will continue to provide surgical services for the rest of its patients.  It is likely that more Roscommon patients than heretofore will be able to have surgery performed at the hospital because most surgery can be carried out on a day basis, which is also more convenient for patients.’ Responding to her comments Deputy Naughten said: ‘It is now clear that the HSE and the Government are in the implementation mode of the downgrading process, which will initially involve the removal of inpatient surgery. This will soon be followed by the removal of anaesthesia cover and then the removal of A&E itself, as has been the process in Louth County Hospital, the blueprint for the downgrade at Roscommon. ‘It is also clear that no new funding is to be put in place in Portiuncula to cater for the increased number of surgical admissions, nor is there any funding for an enhanced ambulance service from Roscommon, which is now at least one hour from the nearest A&E that can cater for road traffic accidents.’  Speaking during the Dáil debate Denis Naughten said: ‘I do not understand why the second option, put forward by local consultants, has been rejected and why the HSE and the Government have not been prepared to outline their plans regarding the hospital.  ‘We want a clear statement on the floor of this House regarding the plans for inpatient surgery at Roscommon County Hospital. It is important that the Government and the HSE stop hiding behind closed doors. If they are so confident that the downgrading plans are in the best interests of Roscommon County Hospital and the people who rely on it, why are they not prepared to talk to the media or engage in public debate either here in the House or at a meeting of Roscommon County Council?  ‘The HSE claims it is not a cost-cutting exercise but the reality is different. Not one additional bed will be provided in Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, which will see a doubling of in-patient surgery.  ‘In fact, there will be a reduction in capacity of two beds at Portiuncula Hospital. No additional day surgery will be carried out at Roscommon County Hospital and there will be no additional investment in the ambulance service in County Roscommon.’  Responding to the Government decision, Denis Naughten added: ‘It is a very sad day for Roscommon Hospital and it is now crystal clear that the commitments given by Fianna Fáil to the people before the General Election were just to try to fool them into supporting the party last year.  ‘But there is still time to get this decision overturned if, and only if, the political will is there, as nothing is set in stone until the new general consultant surgeon is appointed to Portiuncula Hospital later this summer.’